On Jan. 15, just one day before the Hawaii Legislature opened its 2013 session, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the appointment of Justin Woodson of Kahului to the state House of Representatives.

Woodson filled the seat left vacant by Gil Keith-Agaran, who the governor appointed to the state Senate on Jan. 7 to fill the seat of Shan Tsutsui.

The governor persuaded Tsutsui to take the lieutenant governor job after Brian Schatz was appointed by you-know-who to the U.S. Senate to replace the late Dan Inouye.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger was the “Governator” of California — because of the Terminator movies, remember? — we might want to call Abercrombie the “Appointernator.”

After all, in little over two years in office, he’s appointed nearly 10 percent of the 76-member Legislature.

Filling Pukas

Hawaii governors have a lot of appointment power. They include Cabinet members and deputy directors, judges and justices, members of board and commissions.

But Abercrombie has appointed an unusually large number of legislators in a relatively short period.

Some of the appointment opportunities came for reasons beyond his control, such as the death of Inouye. But many came because of his direct actions.

On Dec. 21, 2010, for example, just two weeks after he was inaugurated, he named Maile Shimabukuro and Malama Solomon to the state Senate. Shimabukuro replaced Colleen Hanabusa, who was elected to the U.S. Congress that November. The 1st District seat came open after Abercrombie resigned earlier that year to run for governor.

Solomon, meanwhile, replaced Dwight Takamine, who was hired as the new governor’s labor director. A month later, in January 2011, Abercrombie named Gil Kahele to take the Big Isle state Senate seat vacated by Russell Kokubun, who became the governor’s agricultural director. That same month he also named Jo Jordan to fill Shimabukuro’s House seat.

As his administration developed, Abercrombie’s desire to cull from existing legislators contributed to more vacancies and appointments. Derek Kawakami of Kauai replaced Mina Morita in the House in the spring after she was named head of the Public Utilities Commission by the governor.

By the end of the year, House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro was hired as the governor’s deputy chief of staff. Abercrombie named a former lawmaker, Tom Okamura, to take Oshiro’s House gig, but Okamura soon stepped down for health reasons. Heather Giugni was named the replacement for the replacement.

Besides Okamura, only Giugni is not currently serving in office. She lost election last November to veteran House representative Mark Takai in a reapportioned district.

The governor had some help in his appointments. By law, Democratic Party officials representing the House or Senate seats vacated select three names to submit to the governor for his approval.

But he has also appointed other elected officials such as Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Lindsey was appointed only because OHA could not agree on who to appoint to fill the Maui vacancy on its board of trustees.

Abercrombie selected Lindsey with the understanding that she would not run for re-election, but she later changed her mind and he did not object. She was elected outright in November.

In the case of Sen. Schatz, however, Abercrombie wanted someone who would run again. He also did not want to appoint Hanabusa — in part because that would have set up a special election to replace her.

One other note: Keith-Agaran was appointed by former Gov. Linda Lingle to the state House to fill a vacancy, giving him the rare distinction of having been appointed to both chambers by a Republican and then a Democrat governor.

Lingle also appointed Bev Harbin to the House, a decision she later said was perhaps her worst as governor because Harbin turned out to be an awful lawmaker.

Harbin lost re-election, badly, in 2006. She was defeated by Karl Rhoads, who is the new chairman of House Judiciary. Rhoads replaced — drum roll, please — Keith-Agaran.

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